clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

SB Nation lightweight rankings: Who should get the next shot at Anthony Pettis?

Esther Lin

Under normal circumstances, the question of which fighter deserves the next shot at Anthony Pettis' UFC lightweight title would seem pretty much cut-and-dried.

Rafael dos Anjos has been on a fine run over the past three years, winning eight of his past nine fights, with the most recent win a one-sided victory over Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 13.

But then there's the matter of that loss, which was to the American Kickboxing Academy's Khabib Nurmagomedov, a unanimous decision back on April 19.

Not only does Nurmagomedov own a victory over his rival contender, but he's defeated everyone he's ever fought, racking up a 22-0 record, with the past six coming in the UFC.

The mitigating circumstances? For one, Nurmagomedov has been sidelined with a knee injury. And for another, Pettis, who returned to action after a 15-month absence and became the first fighter ever to finish Gilbert Melendez, isn't inclined to take another hiatus just to wait on an opponent.

So that could open the door for dos Anjos to sneak in and get the title shot ahead of the AKA fighter. And as such, how soon Nurmy can heal will be the big question to watch in the lightweight division as the calendar flips to 2015.

Meanwhile, there's little doubt that Pettis, Nurmagomedov, and dos Anjos are the three hottest fighters in a fast-changing division. Pettis was the obvious choice for the top spot in the current edition of the SB Nation lightweight rankings pool, taking it unanimously. Nurmagomedov took second after getting five of six second-place votes; dos Anjos third with five of six thirds.

New blood is the theme at the bottom end of the top 10. Bellator champ Will Brooks, Edson Barboza, and unbeaten Myles Jury debuted in the 8-10 spots, respectively, as stalwarts like Michael Chandler and Nate Diaz dropped out.

LW ranks
LW ranks

(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission or company suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. Presently, this does not affect any fighters at lightweight who are generally considered to be Top-10 caliber).

1. Anthony Pettis (18-2, 60 points): The way Pettis finished Melendez in the blink of an eye was a reminder that the idea the champ belongs near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings isn't just hype.

2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0, 53 points): Nurmagomedov's rankings rise has been as much about attrition as anything else. In the eight months since he last fought, he gained six rankings spots as vets like Henderson, Melendez, Chandler, Alvarez, and Diaz all tumbled.

3. Rafael dos Anjos (23-7, 47 points): A high ranking and a potential title shot is a just reward for a fighter who has been grinding away in the UFC since 2008, and actually lost his first two UFC fights.

4. Gilbert Melendez (22-4, 40 points): Melendez dropped a second shot at the UFC lightweight champ, which puts him in the Urijah Faber Zone, in which he needs to just get back to work and hope the breaks turn his way.

5. Donald Cerrone (25-6, 1 NC, 35 points): Cerrone, who won five fights in 10 months, can continue creeping his way into the title picture if he hands Myles Jury his first defeat on Jan. 3.

6. Ben Henderson (21-4, 35 points): Henderson, who a few months back had discussed taking one more fight at lightweight and then jumping to welterweight, looks to shake off his loss to dos Anjos when he meets Eddie Alvarez on Jan. 19.

7. Eddie Alvarez (25-4, 20 points): Was Alvarez's loss to Cerrone at UFC 178 some combination of inactivity and Octagon jitters? Or are the whispers that he's on his downside true? His fight with Henderson should offer clues either way.

8. Will Brooks (15-1 15 points): It was just half a year ago that Brooks was mocked when he was elevated into a five-round PPV fight with Michael Chandler on short notice. Who has the last laugh now?

9. Edson Barboza (15-2, 1 no-contest, 13 points): With five wins in his past six fights, Barboza appears to be closing the holes in his game which led to his two upset losses. That's scary for other lightweights to contemplate.

10. Myles Jury (15-0, 9 points): At 6-0 in the UFC, Jury faces his moment of truth against Cerrone in a huge spotlight at UFC 182.

Others receiving votes: Michael Chandler 1, Nate Diaz 1, Bobby Green 1.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting